Today was all about one thing: the town of South Park, Colorado. Four days ago when I discovered that the TransAm trail passes right through South Park, I became giddy with excitement. Riding to this once-insignificant mountain town was a borderline pilgrimage for me.
What you need to understand about me is that when I was in fourth grade, this show about a bunch of vulgar fourth graders came out on Comedy Central. I was hooked from the first time I watched it. Initially, I was enthralled by the toilet humor, fun characters and silly plots. As I matured (it's debatable as to whether or not this maturing process actually took place) I became fascinated with the poignant, terribly clever satire that underlay each episode. For the past twenty years, the only show I have consistently watched is South Park. I very regularly reference the show's plots and humor in my everyday life. In all honesty, I consider Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the show's creators, two of my idols. So, to answer your question: YES, I am very much a fan of Comedy Central's South Park television show.
Getting to South Park was a mild uphill climb, but a very rewarding one. The day before, a gentleman in the town of Guffey prepped us for the ride. He told us that we would come over a hill, then be astounded by a vast scenery of green but treeless mountains. He was exactly right. As Celine and I reached about the seven mile marker, we were blown away by meadow-covered mountains in the foreground, backed by jagged snow-covered peaks in the distance. The ride was gorgeous (and I don't use that term lightly).
The ride went on, and it just got prettier and prettier and prettier until we arrived at the "quiet, little, white-bred, redneck, mountain town" that is South Park.
The first thing I discovered about South Park is that it's not really a town on the map. When Coloradans talk about "South Park", they are generally referring to the Southern part of Park County. However, there is one small portion of the town of Fairplay which is known as South Park, and that little strip was the inspiration for the television program that I'm nuts about.
So when we arrived in Fairplay I went right to the tourist center to inquire about South Park tourism. I was met by a kind fellow who had surely been asked this same question a million times. He explained that South Park was the historic strip along Front Street where there were a few shops and the town's museum.
The fellow went on to better help me understand the town's feelings about the show and its creators. He explained that several years ago, at the peak of the show's popularity, someone in town came up with the bright idea to reach out to Trey Parker and Matt Stone to request "recognition" that Fairplay was the home of South Park. He noted that the creators were never residents of Fairplay. Despite the television program's immense popularity and the (supposedly) deep pockets of its creators, the town never saw a dime. Upset by the lack of "recognition", the townspeople to this day are rather indifferent towards the show.
I couldn't help but to be humored by this story. First of all, there have certainly been millions of fans over the past twenty years who visited the town of Fairplay and brought their tourism dollars with them. I mean, that has to be some form of "recognition". Compared to the other towns in Park County (e.g. Hartsel with its poisoned water), Fairplay seemed to be doing pretty well. It even had a pizza hut! Secondly, if the story about South Park's residents rallying together to demand reparations from the evil creators of the show doesn't sound like a South Park plot line then I don't know what does. This was great. South Park was already starting to feel so, well, South Park.
So I headed to Fairplay's Front Street, the location of South Park. I arrived to find a female motorcycle festival underway. My mind immediately drummed up memories of "The F Word" episode, where a bunch of misunderstood motorcyclists took over the town. Passing down Front Street was amazing. It was literally South Park. A bunch of simply-named, two-story businesses lined this quaint street. Even the font that the town and it's shops used was exactly same as the font used in the show. I chuckled up and down the street, snapping pictures of this once-imaginary town.
I obviously had to get a drink at the Park Bar. How many times had I seen the caricaturized townspeople joining in this bar to argue about "wrastlin'" or to complain about future people "tekkin 'er jabs" or to smugly sip on a glass of red wine? I couldn't let the opportunity pass me by. Due to the bike festival, the place was pretty packed. Somehow my intention to drink one Coors (pronounced 'Cures') turned into three. This was a result of the fact that I befriended this awesome biker woman, Lily, while sitting at the bar. In no time she and I were pouring out our life stories to each other. She shared an interesting quote from one of her idols, Malcolm Forbes, who said that, "Partnerships are leaky ships." I got quite a kick out of that quote, especially given all the partner-work I had been doing over the last two weeks. Anyways, I was really happy to befriend such a character in this oddly special place. We even posed for pictures on her BMW bike before we parted.
Mildly tipsy, I took a walk through town around sunset. The guy in the tourism office was right about the town's lack of enthusiasm for the show. There were only two businesses that had anything South Park related. I'm almost embarrassed to say this, but I felt like a little kid at Disney World as I passed around this totally mediocre mountain town of hardly 700 people. My mind was filled with so many laughs as I saw the elementary school, the park, the "ritzy" condos, the church. I just couldn't believe that I was in South Park.
South Park the town was so oddly similar to South Park the show. Not just in the physical or aesthetic sense, but even in the spirit and character of its people. As redneck, or small-minded, or trite as the show's creators depicted this town, there was one thing that they couldn't deny: South Park, Colorado really was a beautiful little mountain town.